Ramps and Pathways: Integrating Physical Science and Engineering in Early Childhood

Presenter: Betty Zan
Participants are introduced to an approach to engage young children (PreK–2nd grade) in physical science and engineering that is developmentally appropriate and intellectually rigorous. For example, as children design ramp structures that allow them to move objects (marbles, flat disks, etc.) down inclined planes, they learn about force and motion and engage in scientific and engineering practices from the Next Generation Science Standards. Through photos, video, and discussion, participants gain awareness of how young children’s learning about physical science and engineering can be supported in the classroom.

Betty Zan, Associate Professor, University of Northern Iowa; Director, Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education
Betty Zan’s current work focuses on assisting preschool teachers in learning how to integrate science, technology, and engineering into their classroom practices in ways that are authentic and meaningful to children, respectful of the children‘s cultural backgrounds, and intellectually rigorous. She and her colleagues are currently working with Head Start programs that serve children of immigrant families with limited English proficiency. She is also working on a project that provides professional development for preschool teachers and childcare directors focused on preparing them to become effective preK STEM coaches. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate students in early childhood education. Zan was the principal investigator for the Ramps and Pathways project, funded by the NSF. This project developed curriculum materials and professional development for teachers of children ages 3 years through grade 2. She was also the principal investigator for the Coaching and Mentoring for Preschool Quality project, funded by the Office of Head Start, which developed an intensive model of professional development for Head Start teachers to increase their use of effective teaching strategies. The project had a particular focus on instructional support, including concept development, and provided professional development focused on STEM. Zan received her BS in Human Development and Family Studies, and an MA and PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Houston.